I was feeling slightly less sanguine about the pilgrims yesterday because they descended en masse on my previously peaceful beachside suburb and proceeded to really make their presence felt. Sorry to all you true believers out there, but I think it’s obnoxious forcing everyone else to listen to you. I don’t care what you believe, but taking over a public place and deafening passersby with your song, whether they want to hear it or not, is a little bit arrogant if you ask me. World Youth Day celebrations were the place for that; now you’re just taking the piss. I was accosted again, too, and this time the girl wanted to ‘talk’ to me for a few minutes. I couldn’t. I had somewhere to be (Tanalee, new to Sydney and a good friend of a good friend of mine, had made the trek to Man Town and was awaiting collection from the wharf). My way was blocked by a swarm of official WYD backpacks all worn by chanting, singing, wide circle making pilgrims. Um, public footpath, people. Excuse me, but this is not a corn field.
Anyway, the weather’s come over all overcast today so hopefully they’ll shuffle off back from whence they came. Not that any of them came prepared for cold weather: our friend Liv told us on Sunday that nowhere on the entire WYD website does it mention that this is deepest winter for us. Given the number of pilgrims from the Northern Hemisphere and especially research-light (or is it lite) Americans, that’s a pretty big, pretty amusing omission. Apparently the camping goods stores have done a very brisk trade in fleece and wool. I don’t know if it’s good for their god, but it’s very good for our economy.
I’m busily readying the fifth draft of my MS for its despatch to Varuna, the Writers’ House, in preparation for my week-long non-selective residency later in the year. I have to send it to the director, Peter Bishop, far enough in advance that he can read it before I arrive. There will be five writers in total in residence for a week, undertaking Varuna’s Professional Development program. I’m looking forward to all aspects of it, not least meeting Peter Bishop and four other writers. Naturally I want the MS to be as advanced as possible, so it’s been very intensive, actually, and of course I already know it’s still not perfect. No doubt Peter will point out entirely different problems to those my Lynk manuscript assessor identified. All part of the process, and I find I’m hungry for the new criticisms.
I’m also trying to get one of my short stories to a place where Llew doesn’t give me that deer-in-the-headlights look after I read it out to him. “It’s really nice,” he told me last night. That’s not good, is it?! I see what he means, though. It is probably the “nicest” story I’ve done, it’s almost like a children’s story, and he keeps looking for my usually guaranteed acerbic edge. Currently, it’s not there, and so the story feels wanting, somehow. It’s just a simple tale of a child’s inflated sense of self-importance, and how much identity at a young age can be tied up in rituals like birthdays. There’s nothing else to it. Nothing dark or sinister or cynical, and perhaps it leaves the story two-dimensional. It’s very frustrating because I have written several versions of this story, and it keeps coming out without a sting in its tail. I’ve written in first person and then third person. I’ve changed tense. I’ve fiddled with the language. But a plot beyond its wholly simple premise continues to elude me. I’d like to submit it for consideration in another of these annual anthologies, but whilst Llew still gets that look on his face, I don’t think I can, I don’t think there’s any point. Llew of course hastens to assure me he doesn’t read fiction and therefore has no clue and is the absolute worst person to ask, but I disagree. I think these qualities make him an excellent sounding board, and regardless, I respect his opinion. So I’m looking, looking, lying awake, in fact, still looking for the wolf…